"I don't play Melty Blood: Act Cadenza because of its technical merits. I play because it's fun. I love the characters, such as the poor undead schoolgirl (with a gimp arm) who sprints across the screen like Orochi Iori. I think it's awesome that the Catholic priestess hunts vampires with adamantium claws. There's even a midget cat-girl who shoots death beams from her eyes."
Does the world need another 2D fighting game?
"Well, between Street Fighter 3: Third Strike and King of..."
Forget that noise -- my answer is YES! Capcom has seemingly retreated from the market, new SNK fighters always beg the question "Is it as good as [insert old game name here]?", and Guilty Gear's popularity peaked long ago. Without some fresh bandages to plug bleeding wounds, 2D sprite-based majesty would die. And I'm not ready to attend that funeral.
This is where Melty Blood: Act Cadenza comes in. Now, before the doujin know-it-alls possessed of infinite gaming knowledge leap on my back: yes, yes, I'm aware that this is actually the third game in the series and therefore not technically "new"... but it's the first professionally-released episode, as well as the first to land on a console. Act Cadenza's increased exposure has already helped it dethrone King of Fighters XI on Japanese sales charts. People are interested. They're interested because Melty Blood is fresh. They stay interested because Melty Blood is good.
If I had to liken the gameplay to another fighter, I'd probably call it an advanced version of Asuka 120% Burning Fest, which should help about 4 percent of you. (Everyone else, find and play Asuka. Now. It rules.) Act Cadenza is a technical fighter based around chain combos, furious juggles, and quick motions -- no charge attacks! It also incorporates Asuka's 120% Burning meter, which enables additional special attacks and a rage mode. Except here it's called the "magic circuit", it goes all the way up to 300%, and you don't get enraged... you go into heat.
I'm sure the above description sounds perfectly ordinary to a Marvel Vs Capcom 2 vet. WORDS CANNOT CAPTURE THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE. It's like the first time I saw a naked girl: "Huh. We're alike in so many ways, yet somehow... different!" Melty Blood's like that. Although flashy, it combines fast-paced offense with technical defense, whereas Marvel Vs Capcom 2 thrives on character imbalance and obscenely overpowered aggression. Melty Blood's magic circuit enables new attacks, but the 21 characters can also use that energy to parry enemy's blows, reduce damage inflicted by their opponent, or even heal themselves. In short, the aggressive speed and air-dashes make it hard for weenies to sit still and block everything, while skilled players are given the tools to halt -- or counter -- any barrage.
All of that is great. Really, it is. People actually play this game in tournaments, you know? But... I don't. I sit at home, holding my aqua blue controller in my nerdy white hands, staring at an empty chair across the room, wishing someone else owned a Japanese PS2 so that they could practice and compete against me.
I don't play Melty Blood: Act Cadenza because of its technical merits. I play because it's fun. I love the characters, such as the poor undead schoolgirl (with a gimp arm) who sprints across the screen like Orochi Iori. I think it's awesome that the Catholic priestess hunts vampires with adamantium crosses. There's even a midget cat-girl who shoots death beams from her eyes. A midget cat-girl who shoots death beams from her eyes. All 21 characters are beautifully animated, and most of them are cute females borrowed from a famous amateur-created hentai game that I have not played.
The name of that game is Tsukihime, and the plot's supposed to be pretty damn good. That's probably why it's one of the very, very few doujin games to ever be adapted into anime form. With that kind of pedigree, it's not surprising that the characters have such elaborate backstories. For example, one boy carries a pocket-knife that cuts through foes' lifelines with a Fury's precision. Apparently, the undead schoolgirl became undead because this boy wasn't able to save her from the vampire's bite. This kind-spirited girl is now doomed to prey on those weaker than herself while evading the forces of justice -- people she once considered friends.
Act Cadenza doesn't really give these characters any closure -- it's a gift to fans, not a serious continuation of the plot -- but the brief dialogues between friends and enemies are more interesting than the nothing that many 2D fighting games provide.
I still don't know how the midget cat-girl who shoots death beams from her eyes fits into any of that. Nor do I understand the significance of the cheerful maid, the glum maid, or the mechanical version of the glum maid (who wields weapons from Phantasy Star Online... with Sega's official consent). I do know it's awesome that I can actually play as both maids simultaneously, which makes for some unusual double-team tactics.
Melty Blood: Act Cadenza isn't the paragon of fighting game perfection, but it represents something important. It represents hope. It's got the gameplay. It's got the characters. It's got the challenge. All it lacks are appealing backgrounds and enchanting music. Unfortunately, like the brilliant Asuka series, it's only available in Japan.
Here's hoping the rest of the world someday gets Melty Blood. It's sorely needed.
Staff review by Zigfried (September 22, 2006)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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